Scotland's Coronavirus Levels System and How it Actually Works

Last Updated on 23/02/2021 at 15:07

In 2020, Scotland used a system for tackling COVID-19 by allocating a 'level' between 0 and 4, which was also known as the Levels Framework. These levels could be applied nationally (across all of Scotland) or to different areas depending on the rates of COVID-19 transmission locally. For now, the majority of Scotland is in advanced Level 4 restrictions which asks everyone to stay at home.

 

On the 23rd of February, the First Minister announced that Scotland is aiming to return to the levels framework system at the end of April. This is reliant on positive data and trends and may change. 

What is happening in my local area?

Until at least the 26th April, mainland Scotland, the Isle of Skye, the whole of Na h-Eileanan Siar (Western Isles), Barra and Vatersay will follow enhanced Level 4 restrictions which includes a law to stay at home except for essential purposes (find out more below).

After the 26th of April, it is hoped that Scotland will return to using levels if the data allows and all local authorities could be moved to level three. The levels framework means local authority areas where transmission rates of coronavirus are higher or lower than other areas may be assigned a different level to reflect this. In Scotland, there are 32 local authorities, if you're not sure what local authority you live in, you can use the Scottish Government Postcode Checker to find out.

Map of Scotland with a colour key showing the covid-19 restrictions each local authority is in

You can find what the current level in your area is below:

Level 1

N/A

Level 2

N/A

Level 3

Orkney and Shetland.

All islands in Highland except the Isle of Skye are also in Level 3.

Some islands of Argyll & Bute (but not the mainland) are also in Level 3, they are:

  • the Isle of Coll
  • the Isle of Colonsay
  • the Isle of Erraid
  • the Isle of Gometra
  • the Isle of Iona
  • the Isle of Islay
  • the Isle of Jura
  • the Isle of Mull
  • the Isle of Oronsay
  • the Isle of Tiree
  • the Isle of Ulva

Level 4 

  • Aberdeen
  • Aberdeenshire
  • Angus
  • Argyll & Bute, with exceptions noted in Level 3 above
  • City of Edinburgh
  • Clackmannanshire
  • Dumfries & Galloway
  • Dundee City
  • East Ayrshire
  • East Dunbartonshire
  • East Lothian
  • East Renfrewshire
  • Falkirk
  • Fife
  • Glasgow City
  • Highland, with exceptions noted in Level 3 above
  • Inverclyde
  • Isle of Skye
  • Midlothian
  • Moray
  • Na h-Eileanan Siar (Western Isles)
  • North Ayrshire
  • North Lanarkshire
  • Perth & Kinross
  • Renfrewshire
  • Scottish Borders
  • South Ayrshire
  • South Lanarkshire
  • Stirling
  • West Dunbartonshire
  • West Lothian

How long will a local authority stay in a level?

On February 23rd the First Minister announced that the current levels in place across parts of Scotland will mostly remain until at least the end of April. However, between now and the end of April the Scottish Government will prioritise getting people back to school, and work towards gradual easing of some level four restrictions over 3-week intervals. 

This means that on March 15th the Scottish Government hope to allow the following changes:

  • the rest of primary school pupils to return full-time to school
  • more senior phase students to return to school 
  • non-contact group sports for ages 12-17 
  • outdoor household mixing of up to four people from two households

On April 5th, if the data allows, the following will happen:

  • easing of the stay at home message
  • full return of the remaining pupils at primary and secondary schools
  • communal worship with restricted numbers (up to 20 people)
  • six people from a maximum of two households can meet outdoors
  • some areas of retail to reopen such as click and collect services 

On 26th April, the Scottish Government hope to return to the levels framework system and reopen the economy. It is hoped that all local authorities would be able to move to level three from 26th April.

These dates may change and the restrictions will only be eased when it is safe to do so. 

What can I do at each level?

We've summarised some of the key information from each level below that will impact young people's lives, however, when the levels framework comes back later in 2021, it is likely there will be changes to what is allowed to happen in each level.

Throughout all levels, public health advice should be followed, this includes using face coverings and enhanced hygiene measures like washing your hands regularly. 

Level 4

From 5th January 2021, new stay at home measures were introduced for Level 4, this is the law and you should only leave your home for essential purposes, these include:

  • shopping (for essentials such as food and medicine)
  • exercise (stay local to your area)
  • work (if you can't work from home)
  • caring responsibilities.

You can find reasonable excuses to leave and remain outside your home on the Scottish Government website.

From 16th January 2021 it is against the law to consume alcohol in an outdoor public place in any Level 4 area.

Other restrictions in Level 4 are:

  • Socialising: No in-home socialising. Up to two people from two households can meet outside (under 12's are not included) for sport, exercise, social interaction or to provide care and support for a vulnerable person.
  • Hospitality: Hospitality businesses closed. From Saturday 16th January 2021 you cannot collect takeaway food or drink indoors.
  • Travel: No use of public transport, except for essential purposes. No non-essential travel into or out of your local area. Avoid car sharing with people outside extended household.
  • ShopsNon-essential retail will be closed. From Saturday 16th January 2021 only essential retail can offer click and collect services, which cannot take place indoors.
  • Schools, colleges & university: Schools will begin a phased return on Monday 22nd of February. Pupils in P1-P3 will go back full-time and Senior pupils carrying out practical work that is necessary for the completion of national qualifications will face a part-time return on a limited basis.
  • Sport: Only non-contact sports allowed outside. Gyms will be closed. 
  • Entertainment: Closed.
  • Places of worship: Closed for daily services from 8th January.
  • Driving lessons: Not allowed.

Level 3

  • Socialising: No in-home socialising. Up to six people from two households can meet outdoors and in public places that can open, with physical distancing.
  • Hospitality: Open with physical distancing, no alcohol sales indoors or outdoors. Last entry is 17:00 and all venues must be closed and all customers off the premises by 18:00. 
  • Travel: Avoid non-essential use of public transport. No non-essential travel into or out of your local area. Avoid car sharing with people outside extended households. Avoid non-essential use of public transport. 
  • ShopsOpen with physical distancing.
  • Schools, colleges & university: Schools will begin a phased return on Monday 22nd of February. Pupils in P1-P3 will go back full-time and Senior pupils carrying out practical work that is necessary for the completion of national qualifications will face a part-time return on a limited basis.
  • Sport: Indoor individual exercise only (except under 18s) and outdoor all allowed except contact sport for people aged 18+. 
  • Entertainment: Closed.
  • Places of worship: Open (up to 50 people)
  • Driving lessons: Allowed.

Level 2

  • Socialising: No in-home socialising. Up to six people from two households can meet outdoors and in public places like restaurants and cafes, with physical distancing. In Argyll & Bute, from 18:00 on Friday 18th December 2020, on the outer Argyll islands, such as Mull and Islay, you can meet indoors in a group of two households with a maximum of six people.
  • Hospitality: Open with physical distancing, alcohol sales indoors are only allowed with a main meal. Last entry is 19:00 and all venues must be closed and all customers off the premises by 20:00.
  • Travel: No non-essential travel to areas level 3 or higher. Avoid car sharing with people outside extended households.
  • Shops: Open with physical distancing.
  • Schools, colleges & university: Schools will be open with physical distancing and enhanced protective measures. Colleges & universities will use a blended learning model.
  • Sport: All allowed except indoor contact sports for people aged 18+.
  • Entertainment: Cinemas and amusement arcades can open, but other leisure businesses can't, for example theatres and bowling alleys. 
  • Places of worship: Open (up to 50 people)
  • Driving lessons: Allowed.

Level 1

  • Socialising: At the moment, the island local authorities – Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles, as well as other inhabited islands in level one local authorities that aren’t connected to the mainland by road – are the only places in Scotland where it is permitted for six people from a maximum of two households to meet in houses. From 18:00 on Friday 18th December, that will be extended to the outer Argyll islands.
  • Hospitality: Open with physical distancing, last entry is 21:30 and all venues must be closed and all customers off the premises by 22:30. 
  • Travel: No non-essential travel to areas level 3 or higher. Avoid car sharing with people outside extended household. 
  • Shops: Open with physical distancing.
  • Schools, colleges & university: Schools will be open with physical distancing. Colleges & universities will use a blended learning model.
  • Sport: All allowed except indoor contact sports for people aged 18+.
  • Entertainment: Open with physical distancing and restricted numbers, except nightclubs.
  • Places of worship: Open (up to 50 people)
  • Driving lessons: Allowed.

Level 0

  • Socialising: Indoors up to 8 people from 3 households and outdoors up to 15 people from 5 households can socialise with physical distancing.
  • Hospitality: Open with physical distancing, opening time restrictions may be in place. 
  • Travel: No non-essential travel to areas level 3 or higher. Avoid car sharing with people outside extended household. 
  • Shops: Open with physical distancing.
  • Schools, colleges & university: Schools will be open with physical distancing. Colleges & universities will use a blended learning model.
  • Sport: All allowed.
  • Entertainment: Open with physical distancing and restricted numbers, except nightclubs. 
  • Places of worship: Open (up to 50 people)
  • Driving lessons: Allowed.

For a full list of what happens in each level, take a look at the Scottish Government's Strategic Framework document

What does each level mean?

Before introducing this new framework, the Scottish Government was using a Route-Map made up of four different 'phases' which aimed to take us out of lockdown by slowly easing restrictions. Scotland is currently in Phase 3, you can read more about what that means on the Scottish Government website.

However, this new system focuses more on tackling the local spread of the virus until there is an effective vaccine or treatment which would allow Scotland to move into 'Phase 4' of that Route-Map.

Level 4

Within this level, virus cases would be at very high or rapidly increasing numbers, and there would be widespread community transmission which may pose a threat to the NHS to cope. In the case of the festive period 2020, local authorities were moved to Level 4 due to a new strain of the virus.

It is likely that this level would see the introduction of measures close to a return to full lockdown. Measures would be designed to be in place for a short period, to provide a short, sharp response to quickly suppress the virus.

Levels 2-3

In these levels, it's expected that the virus is more common, with multiple clusters and increased community transmission (person to person).

There would be a gradual series of protective measures to tackle the virus, focusing on key areas of risk – broadly, indoor settings where household mixing takes place with less, or less well-observed, physical distancing and mitigations.

The measures would be intended to be in place for relatively short periods (2-4 weeks), and only for as long as required to get the virus down to a low, sustainable level.

Level 0-1

Within these levels, a low incidence of the virus is expected with isolated clusters, and low community transmission (person to person).

These levels are the closest Scotland can get to 'normality', without a vaccine or effective treatment in place, before conditions will allow us to move to Phase 4 of the Route Map. They would be similar to the measures in place during the summer, once we reached Phase 3.

Levels 0 and 1 are designed to be sustainable for longer periods of time.

What if I had to shield before?

Your GP or health care professional will be in touch with you, to provide advice and information following the new strain of the virus.

New guidance issued on 4th January, advised that those who had shielded previously and who can't work from home should not go into work. If this applies to you, you will receive a letter which can be used as a fit note. 

More information from Young Scot on Coronavirus (COVID-19).